Book Review: Vlad – The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys
No too long ago, I raved about C.C. Humphrey’s book, A Place Called Armageddon. At the risk of becoming repetitive, here we go again – another C.C. Humphries book set in the dark times of the mid-1400’s, another book worthy of the term ‘Historical Literature’, and another book that deserves critical acclaim for its prose. An oh… the single most disturbing scene I have ever read in my life – two paragraphs that still give me the chills a week later.
This is the story of Vlad the Impaler, not the Count Dracula Bram Stoker made famous through his tales of vampirical practices. Vlad the Impaler – Vlad Dracula, Prince of Transylvania, Son of Vlad Dracul. Son of the Dragon. He was known by a dozen different names, and the fact that he was known by all these names at the time he lived indicates just how well-known, and how well-feared he truly was.
The story starts with the capture of the three people who knew him best: his best friend, his mistress, and the priest he confessed to. The first twenty pages are a bit convoluted, as each of the three is brought before a papal commission, bound to find the true story of the man. The true story begins with Vlad’s childhood, as a hostage in the hands of the Sultan Murad and the father of Mehmet, the boy who would become Vlad’s life-long enemy. From there, we follow Vlad as he grows and becomes a man, and from man to legend. Along the way, we trace the battles he fights and the atrocities he commits.
As we follow him, we see the world through his eyes, and his reasons for doing what he did. We’re forced to pity him, to root for him, to like him, then to pity him once more. Humphrey’s does an excellent job of playing with our emotions and taking practices that would be abominable today, and making them necessary for the common good of that time.
This is not an easy book to read, and parts are not enjoyable – nor should they be. This is not commercial fiction – you have to really read and let the words flow over you. Every paragraph is hammered in the forge of Humphrey’s craft. But it is a book worth reading because of that craft, and because it is interesting in its topic and fascinating in its detail… and disturbing in its images.
If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend this book. If you’re looking for sparkly vampires… go somewhere else, kid. This is deep, and it’s dark and it will be hard to forget.
In case you are wondering, the two paragraphs I spoke of earlier… two paragraphs that will haunt me forever… the end of page 101 and the start of page 102. I dare anyone to read those two paragraphs and not clench every muscle in their body. Very few books have ever caused that sort of visceral reaction in me, and the only other one I can think of off the top of my head was Stephen King’s The Shining, albeit for completely different reasons.
Read. Enjoy. But be forewarned.